The face of the homeless community in Acadiana changed significantly in 2020, Catholic Charities director Kim Boudreaux said.
Speaking with Jan Swift of the Discover Lafayette podcast, Boudreaux noted how the pattern of people moving in with family following loss of a job or income was no longer an option due to the coronavirus pandemic. Homelessness surged during the year with family homelessness skyrocketing, she said.
You can listen to their conversation here.
Since January 2020, the Acadiana region has experienced an 82% increase in homelessness (with family homelessness up over 200% since March 2020), along with a 77% decrease in emergency shelter beds. Boudreaux’s agency transferred clients into hotels with staff continuing to offer the same services.
“Prevention is such an important part of this puzzle,” she said. “The experience of losing your home is very traumatic, especially if you have children. Right now, not having shelter options makes it very difficult.
“Then other things fall apart for the family: you lose your job, the kids don’t go to school and they fall behind. By the time you factor in the cost of rehousing with deposits and getting restabilized, we would all have been better off if we could have prevented the loss of housing from the beginning.”
In March 2020, Catholic Charities counted 166 people in their homeless program, and unsheltered homelessness had been at an all-time low as the organization did not turn people away, offering a place to sleep even if it was on the floor. But the pandemic was a challenge, and the agency closed St. Joseph’s Diner.
Catholic Charities has been offering rent assistance to both tenants and landlords with funding coming from Community Development block grants from Lafayette Consolidated Government. The agency distributed on average $200,000 a month last year for rent and utility assistance, dwarfing the $300,000 handed out in all of 2019.